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  Global Views
View on "Still Hope for the EU Constitution?"
By Dr. Ioan Voicu
Special Contribution
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel

Oct. 19, 2005 — I refer to the article Still Hope for the EU Constitution? by Jerome Kim (Global Wiews, Oct. 18, 2005) in which the author asserts that hopes to revive the EU Constitutional Treaty (CT) in the near future remain slim, if not vanished.

There are also some different views on this topic. First of all so far, 14 not 13 countries have ratified the CT.

The drafting of the CT, a complex legal instrument of more than 65,000 words, was a very difficult political and diplomatic exercise, but it was an integral part of the profound aspirations for building an entity with a distinct identity, able to speak with one strong voice in the world community.

For realistic authors the no vote in France and the Netherlands reflected a sad failure of political leadership, being more a consequence of confusion about than of understanding the essence of the CTs provisions.

Consequently, the EU should be seen as part of the solution, not as a cause of the problem.

General pessimism about the EU may prove inappropriate. The optimists demand continuing the CTs ratification process, pointing out that a majority (14 countries) have already done it.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, who will take over the rotating EU presidency in January 2006, said that France and the Netherlands should vote again in 2007 on the CT. In his opinion, leadership changes in the two countries could pave the way for new, successful referenda.

In this context, it is quite premature to pronounce the CT dead, as some analysts do. In diplomacy, disproportionate pessimism or optimism can lead to serious errors. Responsible visionarism is needed to succeed.

In this regard, it is appropriate to recall the words of Robert Schuman, one of the fathers of the EU. He said that European unity would be constructed with patience, not in the abstract, but through a certain number of clearly defined measures, both by solidarity in action and by a continual sharing of responsibility. In this way Europe may successfully finalise a unique chapter of international relations.

Dr. Ioan Voicu
Visiting Professor
Assumption University of Thailand

Dr. Ioan Voicu
Visiting Professor
Assumption University of Thailand,
ABAC Hotel 4405,
Ramkhamhaeng Rd., Soi 24
Bangkapi, Huamark,Bangkok 10240

Tel :(662)300-4543-62 Ext.3405
Fax :(662) 719-1521

Still Hope for the EU Constitution?

By Jerome Kim
Staff Writer

Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Commission president

Once hailed as a model of regional integration, the European Union still seems clogged in one of its most profound crises yet. Three months after the rejection by France and the Netherlands through referendum, hopes to revive the EU constitutional treaty in the near future remain slim, if not vanished.

Speaking at the 25th anniversary of the anti-Communist movement in Poland last Wednesday (Aug. 31, 2005), European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said "in the foreseeable future we will not have a constitution. That's obvious. I haven't come across any magic formulas that would bring it back to life,"expressing the most pessimistic remarks yet by a top EU official about what will happen to the constitution.

So far, 13 countries have ratified the constitution but all 25 members are required to approve it to be implemented. Denmark, the Czech Republic, the UK, Portugal, Poland, and Ireland, who were also due to hold referendums, have indefinitely halted their plans.

What's next?

In order to prevent the imminent death of the constitutional project and perhaps more importantly in order to reestablish the dialogue with the people of Europe, political leaders, meeting at the European Summit (June 16-17), had decided to launch a "period of reflection" which would be used to clarify the contents of the constitution and hopefully provide a fresh start for further reform of the EU.

Since then, several possibilities have been put forward in order to overcome the current crisis.

Sebastian Kurpas, research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies based in Brussels, Belgium, said "in order to save the constitutional treaty in its entirety, the only possibility will be to continue ratification, whether as planned or after 'freezing' the process for some time."

It is indeed possible to envisage a re-run of the referendum in France and the Netherlands, as the "No" votes were widely perceived as a "sanction vote" against the executive in the first case and a discontent at the lack of clear explanations on the text in the second. This solution would also ensure that all member countries are consulted.

However, it also brings some considerable setbacks. The EU could find itself once again in a period of uncertainty and develop an even more negative dynamic for the constitutional project. Britain and Denmark, known for their Euro-skepticism, were also poised to have rejected the constitutional treaty.

It is also doubtful that politicians in France and the Netherlands would run the political risk to call for a second vote on the same text.

The other possibility would be to have a kind of "Nice Plus," taking some elements of the constitutional treaty, which are widely undisputed such as the nomination of a foreign minister, the External Action Service, or the Citizens Initiative, and introducing the more ambitious but much-needed elements such as a new voting system at a later date.

However, all these elements would have to be renegotiated and there is no guarantee that a common decision will emerge from these.

Presently, the second possibility seems more likely but the EU needs urgent and thorough reform because the complexity of its institutions and further enlargement on the horizon will certainly prove very difficult to manage under its current model. Also, its widely criticized "democratic deficit" and lack of clarifications about its functioning are increasingly exasperating the citizens of the Union.

Ironically, these are issues the constitutional treaty was seeking to address.

Jerome Kim, Korean-Belgian journalist, serves as a staff writer for The Seoul Times. Jerome grew up mostly in Belgium as his S. Korean parents immigrated to the European nation. He majored in international relations at York University, Canada. Jerome concentrates on European affairs as well as arts and culture.






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